LI does not own a tv. We haven’t for years. But we keep up as we can – watching the Simpsons in bars, spending Christmas vacation with relatives, soaking up Seinfeld re-runs, and the like.
From this amateur’s glance at tv, we have to rate Fox highly. Surely, the Simpsons is the best thing ever put on FCC regulated airwaves. That Fox news, and the man who owns Fox, strike us as comically ignorant (the former) and like Goldfinger, only with a less elevated sense of morals (the latter), just shows that capitalist enterprises are full of surprising interstices.
So we were cheered that Fox is challenging the FCC about the fine given to the network for showing some digitally obscured strippers being covered with whip cream on some show – Millionaire Bachelor Parties or something. This is one battle we hope Fox wins. We are solidly behind whip cream on strippers – except of course if the strippers have allergic reactions to whip cream, in which case we are sure there are soy milk substitutes that will do.
On the other hand, there is an irritating strain among progressives that is not all for putting whip cream on strippers. Not, that is, unless it is for the sake of art. Ah, art. Robert Scheer ‘s column in the LA Times Sunday castigates the American public for telling Gallup pollsters that they don’t go for sex, strippers, whip cream, or anything that doesn’t have bunny rabbits and suitably neutered angels in it, by a 70% margin. Or at least that is what I make of Scheer’s first graf.
“What does it mean that a whopping 70% of Americans, according to a recent New York Times-CBS News poll, believe that mass culture is responsible for debasing our moral values? It means, if the poll is accurate, that we are a nation of lascivious hypocrites. In fact, the lure of sin, as represented by Hollywood and the entertainment industry, is as tempting to Americans today as apples ever were to Adam and Eve.”
Scheer points out that, despite the Gallup numbers, Americans prefer Millionaire Batchelor Party to Grandmother Quilts For Abstinence, a Hallmark Hour special. This is good news. While I have expressed my skepticism about the cultural attainments of homo americanus, we think that there is something healthy about setting the channel changer to the channel with semi-nudity and heavy breathing after a workday criminally lacking in same. But Scheer doesn’t:
“On rare occasions, the good triumphs. Religious censors, for example, would have killed D.H. Lawrence's exquisite depiction of Lady Chatterley's affair with her gamekeeper if he hadn't been able to find printers who valued cash over the church's approval. Today, however, the admixture of greed and art allows "Desperate Housewives" to cash in on the same sex-with-a-hireling story line, with more cleavage and far less sincerity. Catering to our base desires also finds us eagerly paying for video games in which one can spend the afternoon slaughtering innocents and monsters alike, while our prime-time television is dominated by "Survivor"-style shows whose logical conclusion seems to be Piggy's execution by the mob in "Lord of the Flies."
My my, that Lawrence fella ain’t writing for TV any more? A shame. I remember his I love Lucy episodes. I particularly cherished the episode where Ricky and Fred wrestled naked in the light cast by the fire in the fireplace. Exquisite depiction, I said.
Scheer’s object is to label the evangelical set wrong, and their congregations hypocritical. The evangelicals blame liberals for Desperate Housewives, which is wrong, and the congregations watch it, which is hypocritical. We think Scheer is wrong, both in his strategy and his lack of sympathy with the great unwashed fantasies that float above the rooftops every night. By Scheer’s own reckoning, Desperate Housewives is number one even in Utah. So why should liberals disclaim the credit? Instead, liberals should welcome the evangelical charge. Yes, they should shout, we are responsible for the most charged up, sexiest tv you ever dreamt of. Give us a chance! Emmanuelle – the REAL X files – at 10! Fanny Hill’s College Days – oops, forgot that crucial digital distortion for a second! – at 11! Talk about an issue that we can ride into the White House.
Liberal culture has made sex one of the regular bourgeois pleasures. The evangelicals are right. Let them gnash their teeth in the dark. Two cheers for liberal culture.
ps -- Media week inveigled some truly timeless stats from the FCC, which has been acting like American sexual standards, circa 2004, should please Torquemada or your average Oklahoma senator, circa 1590:
"... For example, the agency on Oct. 12, in proposing fines of nearly $1.2 million against Fox Broadcasting and its affiliates, said it received 159 complaints against Married by America, which featured strippers partly obscured by pixilation.
But when asked, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau said it could find only 90 complaints from 23 individuals. (The smaller total was first reported by Internet-based TV writer Jeff Jarvis; Mediaweek independently obtained the Enforcement Bureau’s calculation.)"
Well, those 23 invididuals are getting Rolls Royce treatment -- unless, of course, one considers that the fines are part of the general sliminess of a corrupt Bush administration that panders to the lowest element in the electorate. But LI considers that only a hypothesis. You understand, we are trying to be fair to the junta that rules us.
However, what about other complaints about all that indecent tv?
"The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, Powell said. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, “a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes.”
What Powell did not reveal—apparently because he was unaware—was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003—99.8 percent—were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group."
Well well. Who would have thought? Of course, Powell does have the courage, the dignity, to ignore complaints. For instance, the complaints that the FCC was rolling over like a pliant oenophile to allow media monopolies in metropolitan media markets, due to the fact that surely, all the Republican members of the FCC will find lucrative posts as members of boards of various of the major benificiaries of that permission.